FOUNDER member of Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club, Joe Geary, has died at the age of 76.

Joe Geary was born in Boscombe Hospital in 1941 during the Second World War and grew up in Ringwood, attending Ringwood Junior School and then Ringwood Secondary School.

"He worked for the family business in Ringwood, at the butcher's and grocers, and then did various other jobs based outside. He loved working outdoors," said his sister Diana Harris.

He took an interest in rugby after an uncle introduced him to the sport when he was a teenager.

In 1966 at the age of 25 Joe was one of a small group of young men that formed the Ellingham and Ringwood Rugby Club in the Smith's Arms, and he was their first captain.

Last year, the club celebrated their golden jubilee and John Rose, the club's last surviving founder member, commented, "Joe can be very proud of his legacy and I know he took a great pleasure in seeing how his initial idea had developed into a large and well respected club with over 20 men's, women's, boys and girls teams."

In recent years Joe took a particular interest in the club's successful women's team. It was particularly fitting that the day after his death a two minutes silence was observed before a women's league game, with the side going on to beat their rivals the Oakmeadians, 34 -15.

Joe was also involved in Ringwood Cricket Club where he captained many teams and nurtured several generations of young players.

"He was also passionate about breeding and showing rabbits and had a great deal of success at agricultural shows across the south of England, including the New Forest Show,"said Diana.

As well as being a respected and influential member of the local community, Joe was also a great family man. He married Barbara late in life and adored his two stepchildren and was popular with his nephew and nieces and an assortment of cousins.

"Joe will be sadly missed by his family and friends and also by the wider Ringwood community,"said friend Steve Benson.

He died on September 23 at the Macmillan Hospice in Christchurch. His funeral will be held on October 27 at Ringwood Parish Church at 2pm and afterwards at the rugby club in Parsonage Barn Lane.